2009-2010 Caribbean / Bahamas Trip



Friday, May 7th, en route to Royal Island, Eleuthera

Last night was our final one in the Exumas.  We dropped the hook off of Ship Channel Cay at about 2:30 with not a soul in sight.  By dinner time there was a liveaboard dive boat anchored in the distance and off of Robert's Cay to our south was one other sailboat.  Beautifully empty.  We went for a swim in the crystal clear water and wondered whether we'd enjoy the Abacos as much..  We haven't been there since our first trip in 2001/2002 so it will be interesting to give it another try.

We left Georgetown almost two weeks ago after finally receiving our fed-ex package.  Before departing we finally got together with Hannes & Sabine from Cayenne who had recently arrived from the southern Bahamas.  We had tried to get together a few nights before but our little gathering was broken up by 30+ knot "pre-frontal activity"  Lightening, etc.  Needless to say our guests fled to their boat. 

On the 29th of April with the dodger, mixing elbow, battcar and wind generator all repaired we headed north out of Elizabeth Harbour.  By 3:30 we had passed through Dotham Cut and anchored at Black Point.  Blissfully uneventful.  By now we were beginning to plot our trip home.  Do we leave from Highborne again?  Do we go to the Abacos and wait for a (shorter) weather window to Norfolk there?  It was looking like any window that might come along was in the relatively distant future so we were leaning toward the Abaco option.  From Black Point we continued on to Sampson Cay to top up on fuel.  While we were there one of our alternators chose to stop working.  Happily we had kept the tired but not completely kaput previous alternator and Roger spent a morning installing it.  Ah, the joys of cruising!  From Sampson we headed to Hawksbill Cay in the Exuma Land & Sea Park.  We arrived at three in the afternoon and there wasn't a soul in sight.  We took a walk and a swim and were amazed that no one joined us in the anchorage that night.  A rare treat.

From Hawksbill we made the short trip to Shroud Cay, one of our favorite spots.  Shroud is actually a series of small islands connected by mangroves.  You can take your dinghy from the west side of the "island", through the middle to the east side.  On our previous visit there was a cut through the east side of the island which made for a great water ride when the tide was right.  This time the cut seemed to have been closed by a storm.  It was quite a surprise. 

We are currently underway to Royal Island at the north end of Eleuthera.  From there we'll head across the Northeast Providence Channel and to the Abacos tomorrow.  There we'll make our way up towards Man O' War Cay and await our window to head back to Norfolk, our launch spot back in November. 

Thursday May 13th, Beaufort, N.C.

Change of plans.  Saturday morning the 8th we left Royal Island pointed towards the Abacos.  The morning's weather report suggested that there was a window to Norfolk if we left TODAY.  Also of note in the report was a weeks worth of 20+ east wind aimed at the east-facing cuts of the Abacos.  Read:  No Exit.  Do we head off to Norfolk with no passage meals and the dinghy hanging off the stern??  We decided that these details were easily remedied so we shifted gears.  What started out as a daysail was becoming a 4+ day passage.  Happily the day was calm and we were able to take care of a bunch of passage details while underway.  I went below and cooked a lasagna, a corn, bean and bacon ragu and a quick bread for breakfasts.  After that was done we hove to and hoisted the dinghy aboard.  After several other chores we were good to go.  Norfolk here we come!  We finished the day with sushi left over from yesterday's tuna catch.   Yum!

Sunday morning found us north of the Abacos and pretty comfortable.  Saturday night had been a motorsail since the wind was still light.  It was an ok way to adjust to our new plans.  In the morning we were able to shut off the engine and sail all day.  Very nice. Sunday night was a little less restful.  At about midnight Roger sensed a change in the engine tone.  We had been motorsailing closehauled since sunset and things were a bit lumpy.  With a flashlight clamped in his teeth he discovered that one of the bolts on the newly installed alternator had sheared.  Simple.  Just dig around in the spares  ..in the dark...till you find a bolt that will fit.  Not a problem.  Despite the rather snarky seas the Captain was able to keep his stomach in check and get the job done.  Good man.  While this was all going on we were the lucky witnesses of a lighting show.  Happily not the kind that threatens to fry your electronics, just the kind that lights up the sky overhead making you fear that you will be fried anyway.

Monday was a nifty day despite the continued closehauled sailing.  It's a wonder what sunlight does for your point of view.  Amazingly enough we encountered two other northbound sailboats in our neighborhood.  Passages and Spirit were both in view during the mid-day.  It's a small ocean...By this point in the trip we had decided that Norfolk was not going to be possible with the window that we had.  Beaufort, N.C. was now our target.

Monday night was great.  We were able to sail all night and the stars were spectacular since the moon was in its last quarter.  Since we were on passage I was actually awake (at midnight) to call my brother (in Anchorage, Alaska) on his birthday.  Tuesday, as we approached the Gulf Steam the wind was light and we were motorsailing.  Happily we would gain significant forward speed once in the stream.  Despite a quirky fuel hiccup and a minor pressure water plumbing issue we went into Tuesday night with our new goal in striking distance. 

Wednesday morning we were 30+ miles from the Beaufort sea buoy.  The wind was light enough that we had to motorsail again.  Since we were trying to conserve fuel (hadn't topped up tanks in the Abacos because we didn't go to the Abacos) we were moving at a fairly leisurely pace.  In the late morning we had a visit from a large group of dolphins which is always a treat.  Roger was hooting at them, hoping to get a response.  I'm not sure I heard it. 

By 3:00 p.m. we were tied up to the dock at Morehead City Yacht Basin.  A successful, enjoyable trip.

Tomorrow we head offshore for a two day passage to Norfolk, our original destination.  The voyage continues...

Sunday May 16th, Old Point Comfort, Hampton, VA.,Chesapeake Bay

After a very productive day at Morehead City Yacht Basin (provisioning, fuel, Celtics/Cavs game, etc.) we left the dock at nine o'clock Friday morning headed around Hatteras for Norfolk.  The departure was not without issue. Mike the Dockmaster and two fellows recently arrived on a PS 31 were on hand in case we needed an assist.  All went well backing out.  I got off the finger pier and out beyond the two spare sets of dolphins (there for longer boats) and all was good until...I lost acceleration.  Is it our folding prop?!  Eek!  Then my mind registered the beeping noise.  The engine had quit.  I was able to start it two more times briefly.  Long enough to get the boat going forward and outbound in the fairway.  Our beautifully well mannered boat gracefully drifted towards the exit while Mike jumped into his whaler to help.  Meanwhile Roger has taken the pin out of the anchor (just in case) and dashed below to switch fuel tanks.  Success!  Mike and the guys did a U-turn and we were on our way.  ...With access to sixty fewer gallons of fuel than we anticipated.  We decided that the trip to Norfolk was short enough that we could make it with our small fuel tank if push came to shove.  We continued as planned.  We are a sailboat after all.

And sail we did.  We had a beautiful reach out to marker R "4" , known locally as the knuckle buoy, and turned the corner for Hatteras.  Once around the buoy the wind was astern and the  sails were set wing and wing. At sunset we took the pole down and were able to broad reach.  We rounded the buoy off of Hatteras in the depth of the moonless night.  The weather was fairly benign so the crew was very happy despite the foul reputation of this stretch of water.  By morning the wind had dropped to a point where we had to turn on the engine.  This was short lived however as the wind picked back up out of the east after noon.  We had between seven and nine knots of breeze and the boat was moving at 4.5 knots.  The trip was a good one for wildlife as well as sailing.  We were visited regularly by dolphins, saw two very large sea turtles, and saw one loon and heard another.  Not bad.  As the sunset approached on Saturday it was clear that we were going to arrive at the Norfolk sea buoy at about 11:00 p.m.  The forecast was for good conditions so we continued on.  We don't make very many night entries but with our newly installed chartplotter and AIS  they sure are less stressful than they used to be.  The Virginia Pilots proved to be very helpful as well.  Their communication with the small craft entering the Harbor was really impressive.  We were contacted several times by different pilots as they approached with their gigantic charges.   They would describe their course and specify the side they intended to pass on.  This all without our even having to hail them! Sweet.  I don't know if I mentioned it but Norfolk Harbor has a fairly long entry.  What began at11:00 p.m. was finally over thirty miles and five hours later at 4:00 a.m.  To end this evening of fun and frolic we were greeted by a sudden thunder and lightening storm as we entered the anchorage at Old Point Comfort.  The hook was down by 4:30.  We turned the HEAT on, had a bourbon and crashed into bed.

Tuesday May 18th, Fishing Bay, Piankatank River, Chesapeake Bay

Yesterday provided us with a real rip snorter of a sail.  We had hoped to head over to the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake for a few days to see some new places.  Sadly the forecast prevented this.  20-25 knots and gusty suggests you ought to be going in a direction other than east.  So we did.  We left Old Point Comfort at eight and sped toward the Piankatank River.  The day started with the sails close hauled and gradually worked around to a beam reach.  At one point Roger clocked us at 9.2 knots.  There was obviously a fair current in the mix.  The only damper on the day was the fact that it was raining a good bit of the time.  We're back in a "changeable" weather climate.  Where did I stow my wool hat?

Today the forecast had gone from bad to worse.  Yesterday's east wind has been replaced by an equally gusty north wind.  We want to go north so we sit and wait.  The only one who appreciates our being stationary is the osprey who has decided he likes to sit on our boom.

Tuesday May 25th, Annapolis, MD.

It is Commissioning Week here in Annapolis.  Today the Navy's Blue Angel precision flying team has been practicing over our heads at the Naval Academy anchorage for the performance that they will give tomorrow.  During the maneuver where the jets cluster together and launch skyward into a backwards somersault I felt compelled to clutch the rigging to keep from falling over.  Today the anchorage is quite crowded with boaters watching the practice.  Tomorrow it will be a zoo.  We'll flee early for the Eastern Shore having already seen  the highlights. 

After our lay day in Fishing Bay last Tuesday we made our way up to Reedville, VA., home of the local menhaden fleet.  We went for a walk and toured the Fishing Museum.  I was happy to learn from a film loop how the menhaden are caught.  I had spent the morning dodging the mother ships and their little offspring boats, never sure if I was passing in safe territory.  I'm all clear on it now and am ready to take them on.   On Thursday we dropped the hook in Solomons.  We went for a walk and bought a loaf of bread and some spectacular lettuce from a Mennonite farmer's market. 

On Friday we arrived in Annapolis in the early afternoon and met up with our friends Chace & Josie who keep their Pacific Seacraft 40, Windaway, here.  Ever the gentleman Chace toted us to Fawcett's Marine (no longer conveniently located by the harbor) and to the grocery store.  Over a great dinner of grilled burgers in their backyard we discussed our weekend itinerary.  Plans were made to sail up the Eastern Bay to the Wye East River where we'd anchor for the night in Shaw Bay.  Saturday's sail started out slowly.  The wind was light and in our face.  We tacked down the Bay for a while before deciding that we'd better do a little motorsailing if we wanted to arrive at our destination before nightfall.  Once we turned the corner into Eastern Bay the wind (what there was of it) was in our favor.  Engines went off and we were sailing once again.  As is the case when we sail together Windaway danced away from her sister who is heavily laden with cruising gear.  One day we'll return with new sails and no junk and see how we fare.  The Shaw Bay anchorage was beautiful and the evening was quite still.  We joined Blue Velvet and Skylark, two friends of Windaway's for several great meals.  After breakfast aboard Skylark (TWO bidets!) Sunday morning we all headed toward home.  In this case, Annapolis.  Blue Velvet and Skylark, both powerboats, were soon out of sight but Windaway and Shango had a good sail, dodging the innumerable racers in the Bay.  A great weekend was had by all.  A special thank you to Chace who always reminds us what it is to simply go out sailing.  It's something cruisers lose track of on our quest to get from point A to point B.

2009-2010  Trip Logs

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